The United States
government is the largest employer in America, with well over three million
employees in virtually every type of field imaginable. Positions range from
blue-collar to clerical to high level managerial and technical positions in
such fields as research, engineering, science, clerical, administration,
teaching, and other public services like law enforcement and postal work.
This is a brief guide to help you locate and apply for job
opportunities with the federal government. In addition, there are volumes of
reference books available which are chock full of job possibilities with
various government agencies.
The best way to start your search is to go
to your local library and find a book describing federal agencies and
positions. The Federal Career Directory is an excellent introduction. After you
find your areas of interest, you will have to spend some time tracking down job
vacancies. The Federal Job Information Center (FJIC) at the Office of Personnel
Management (OPM) is a great source of local information. Most large cities have
a convenient location which will be listed in the government section of your
local phone book. This information is also available at your library, or you
can call 1-800-555-1212 for the toll-free number in the state where you would
like to work. At the FJIC you can learn what positions are open, and request
information, forms and applications.
Federal Job Information Center
It is best to visit the FJIC in person, but if you are not able
to, be prepared to provide specific information when you contact the
- The highest level of education you have completed.
- The amount of experience you have, both paid and unpaid.
- The type of work that interests you.
- Your minimum salary level.
- If you are a veteran or not.
- The name and address where forms should be sent-please write clearly.
way to find out about opportunities is to directly contact the agencies
or departments in which you are interested. Most agencies have a job
hotline of the most current openings. This may be the best way to get
the job, as you could be hired immediately and might even network your
way into a desired position. Try to get the specific numbers of the
department heads or supervisors of the areas that you're interested in
and speak with them directly.
Another alternative is the State Employment Service (SES) office
in your city, where you can have access to the Federal Job Opportunity
Listing (FJOL) which is updated monthly by the OPM. This should also be
available in your college placement office. For further assistance the
government has also set up a Career America College Hotline at
1-900-990-9200. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, every day, and
will cost you about forty cents per minute.
Finally, there are several publications you can either purchase
yourself or borrow from the library including: Federal Career
Opportunities (703) 281-0200 or Federal Jobs Digest (914)762-5111. Both list job vacancies and will help you locate a job. The U.S. Government Manual also lists employers information.
After you track down job openings, you must fill out application
forms. The OPM will know if you can apply through them or if you need to
apply directly to the desired federal agency. You will need to obtain
and complete the Standard Form (SF) 171 for government employment. A
good tip is to fill it out neatly and make several copies leaving
specific job sections and the date blank until you need them so that you
will be prepared when other job openings arise.
Most likely you will then be required to take an exam depending on
the general service grade (GS) of the opening. For example, those
applying for GS-5 and GS-7 positions (generally entry level) must take
the national exam, Administrative Careers with America. This test
incorporates job-related terms and measures general reasoning abilities.
Another test, the Individual Achievement Record, scores applicants on
their reading, vocabulary and math skills. However not everyone must
take these exams. Applicants who have earned top grades in school may be
allowed to bypass the testing. The Outstanding Scholar program allows
students who have a 3.5 G.P.A. or are in the top 10% of their class to
immediately apply to any federal agency without taking exams.
After you apply through the OPM, they will evaluate and rate your
application. If you meet the requirements, you will be placed on a
listing that is made available to hundreds of government offices.
Hopefully, you will eventually be invited to begin the interview
process. If for some reason you don't make it past this stage, your
application will be "recycled" for future openings.
Virtually all federal civil service jobs are ranked by GS ratings,
and this will be provided with the job listing. The GS table posted at a
job center will tell you the standard salary if you are hired at that
GS level. Ratings begin at GS-1; four years of college qualifies you for
a GS-5 rating, nine months of work plus college will get you a GS-7
rating. Depending on your experience, you could be hired at any level
through GS-18. In addition, each GS level includes a range of ten
"steps" which also helps determine salaries.
Types of Federal Jobs
Entry Level Administrative and Professional Jobs
(called Administrative Careers with America by OPM)
• Often do not involve specific educational requirements.
require a written test (Health, Safety, Environmental, Writing, Public
Information, Business, Finance, Management, Personnel, Administration,
Computers, Benefits Review, Tax, Legal, Law Enforcement, and
• Some require completion of specific college course work.
• include accountants and auditors, biologists, engineers, foresters, mathematicians, and physical scientists.
• Require completion of certain college courses.
• Entry level at GS-5 to GS-7, but those with experience or advanced degrees will be hired at higher levels.
Public Safety Jobs
• Include air traffic controllers, deputy U.S. marshals, treasury enforcement agents, U.S. park police officers.
• May require a bachelor's degree or specific experience and a written test.
• Entry level from GS-5 to GS-7.
• Include a wide variety of support positions (from paralegals to lab technicians).
• Should have at least two years of relevant experience, and/or a two-year degree.
• These jobs often start at the GS-4 level.
Clerical and Administrative Support
• The largest category of government employment.
• Most start at GS-2 level and require a high school diploma.
• Federal jobs offer excellent pay and benefits.
• In 1991 salaries ranged from GS-1 step 1(GS 1/1) at $11,015, to GS-5/1 at $16,973, to GS-11 step 6 at $36,301. Mid-level salaries (GS-8 through 13) range from $23,284 to $57,650. Senior executive service salaries start at $70,000 and above.
• Generally, the federal government pays very well in comparison with their equivalents in the private sector.
• Best for managers, scientists, and computer systems workers, lawyers and other professionals.
trends in engineering, medical positions, social scientists,
economists, investigators, health care, education, congressional staff,
and possibly law enforcement.
cutbacks in government spending, state and local government jobs will
increase at an average rate, especially in public education.
• Government agencies maintain special hiring programs for women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
CONTACTS/ ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
DIRECTORIES (check your local library and on-line systems for more.)
Federal Jobs Digest
Federal Job Announcement Search
Federal Market Research - Federal Personnel Locator Services
The Handbook of Occupational Groups and Series
The U.S. Government Manual
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